Lebanon’s central bank said foreign exchange dealers could not sell U.S. dollars for more than 3,200 Lebanese pounds, according to a circular on Sunday, after the currency tumbled on the parallel market over the past week. 

Police officers stand guard as protesters knock down the fencing outside of Lebanon Central Bank during an anti-government protest in Beirut in November 2019. (Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters)

The pound, which has lost more than half its value since October amid a deep financial crisis, fell sharply last week, nearing 4,000 to the U.S. currency before dealers began a temporary strike on Friday. 

The official rate at banks remains pegged at 1507.5 pounds to the dollar, but that rate remains available only for vital imports amid a severe dollar crunch. The central bank said last week currency transfer services could exchange at 3625 pounds. 

The circular said the U.S. dollar exchange rate had risen against the pound in an “unjustified way over the last few days”.

The pound’s rapid fall has triggered protests and threatened broader unrest. Two banks were attacked, one with a small bomb and another with petrol bombs over the past two days. 

Prime Minister Hassan Diab attacked the central bank governor for the currency crash on Friday, prompting powerful parliament speaker Nabih Berri to warn against the long-time bank chief’s removal. 

Previous attempts to set a dollar exchange rate and crack down on exchange houses violating the cap have failed despite some dealers being shut down.


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